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2015 MLB Almanac: The Best of the Best

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With only days away from pitchers and catchers reporting, we take a final look at the 2015 Major League Baseball season as we list the best of the best of last year.

FUBAR

FUBAR stands for Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings and it combines the following criteria to come up with what it believes to be the best, overall baseball players:

  • Hitting
  • Power
  • Plate Discipline
  • Base Running
  • Fielding

Using this criteria, we will list out the best position players of the 2015 campaign. Also, we will be revealing FUBAR’s Top 20 players of 2015 throughout this article:

  • 20. Lorenzo Cain–One of the most efficient base runners and an elite outfielder.
  • 19. Kevin Pillar–Finished as a slightly better outfielder than Cain and narrowly beat out Cain in the base running department. Both players did not rank in any of the other categories used in FUBAR
  • 18. Nelson Cruz–This slugger proved no ballpark is too big for him to slay. Cruz finished with a slash line of .302/.369/.566.
  • 17. Kevin Kiermaier–The center fielder finished as the best defensive player in baseball per the defensive metrics used in this exercise.
  • 16. David Ortiz–“Big Papi” is simply a source of power and has one of the most intimidating plate approaches in the game today.

We’ve listed our best defensive and offensive players in the 2015, Major League Baseball season. And now the time has come to combine both entities and name our best, All-Around Baseball team of 2015.

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ALL-RADIUM TEAM

Our radioactive team is as follows:

  1. Buster Posey–Catcher: A force on offense at this position and a tough batter to strike out, Posey also gets high marks from “baseball” people for the intangible work he does behind the plate.
  2. Paul Goldschmidt–First Base: Goldie would be the only first baseman to rank in all nine statistical categories used in FUBAR.
  3. Jason Kipnis–Second Base: Kipnis quietly had a bounce-back season in 2015 as he took over the top spot at second base.
  4. Brandon Crawford–Shortstop: A career year of sorts for Crawford, he showed he could carry a big bat to match his handy glove work.
  5. Josh Donaldson–Third Base: The American League MVP would also rank in all nine statistical categories used in FUBAR.
  6. Yoenis Cespedes–Left Field: Cespedes dominated this position last season as he had himself a career year.
  7. A.J. Pollock–Center Field: Just like Donaldson and Goldschmidt, Pollock was one of the few players to rank in all the FUBAR stats’ categories.
  8. Bryce Harper–Right Field: The National League MVP destroyed the competition at this position.
  9. Mike Trout–Designated Hitter: Trout missed out as the starting center fielder, but this is a great consolation prize for him. Trout did not limit his strikeouts well last season and did not rank high in one of the base running metrics among centerfield. Nevertheless, without a doubt, he was the best hitter at his position.

PLAYERS 11-15

So now that we have listed the best players at every position from last season, let’s go back to our FUBAR overall rankings:

  • 15. Miguel Cabrera–Without a doubt, Miggy will go down as one of the best hitters of his generation.
  • 14. Adrian Beltre–The “Ageless” Beltre is still a tough guy to strike out, can still run the bases well, and is still one of the best gloves in baseball. In a recent episode of The Men Up North Podcast, it was agreed upon that Beltre should be in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done.
  • 13. Nolan Arenado–From one third baseman cementing his legacy in the game, to a new guy who finally figured it out last season. His fielding is never in question, but Arenado proved to be one of the better power-hitters in baseball.
  • 12. A.J. Pollock–Our starting center fielder in our All-Radium Team, Pollock was overmatched when comparing his numbers to the rest of baseball. Regardless, Pollock made a name for himself last season and is one of the big reasons the Arizona Diamondbacks have a lot of hype coming into the 2016 season.
  • 11. Yoenis Cespedes–Our starting left fielder in our All-Radium Team, Cespedes’ bat proved to be the spark that was needed in the New York Mets’ lineup, en route to the World Series. Cespedes will be back for at least one more season as the team looks to make another deep, postseason run.

BEST FIELDER

As mentioned in the best defensive players showcase, we used two defensive metrics to measure fielding. So we listed our best fielders by position, but now we will name our best of the best, top defensive fielder in all of baseball. As mentioned before here, Kevin Kiermaier finished head and shoulders better than anyone in 2015. Here’s how the rest of the list broke down:

  1. Kevin Kiermaier
  2. Jason Heyward
  3. Andrelton Simmons
  4. Yoenis Cespedes
  5. Lorenzo Cain
  6. Nick Ahmed
  7. Brandon Crawford
  8. Starling Marte
  9. Adrian Beltre
  10. Kevin Pillar

ULTIMATE STARTING ROTATION

For an explanation on how we come up with our best rotation, be sure to check out last season’s Ultimate Starting Rotation.

First Rotation

  1. Clayton Kershaw–Without a doubt, the best pitcher of the current generation, the best pitcher of 2015 by a landslide, and arguably one of the best pitchers of all time.
  2. Jake Arrieta–There was a tie, but Arrieta gets the nod because he is the reigning National League Cy Young winner.
  3. Chris Sale–The only player worth watching on the Chicago White Sox, Sale was extremely dominant last year. At one point, Sale was on pace for 300 strikeouts. He still finished with the highest K/9 of any qualifying starting pitcher (11.82).
  4. Max Scherzer–Finished third in both K/9 and BB/9 last season as his first season in Washington saw him become the Nationals’ ace on an already loaded pitching staff.
  5. Jacob deGrom–Speaking of loaded pitching staffs, the Mets’ rotation was a big part of their success last season and the advanced numbers showed deGrom being a major contributor, finishing fourth in FIP.

Second Rotation

  1. Carlos Carrasco–Yet another team with a fully loaded rotation, Carrasco’s advanced metrics showed him and not 2014 Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber, as the best starter for the Cleveland Indians.
  2. Gerrit Cole–If there were any questions as to who the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates was, Cole erased all doubts in 2015.
  3. Dallas Keuchel–Your American League Cy Young winner
  4. Madison Bumgarner–He speaks softly and carries a big bat. Oh and he’s a pretty good pitcher too.
  5. Zack Greinke–Would finish 22nd in Strikeout Percentage (K%), but somehow ranked sixth in FIP. Greinke finished first in both traditional stats of ERA and WHIP.

BEST BASE RUNNER

As explained in our All-Offensive entry to the 2015 almanac, players don’t have to steal a lot of bases to be considered good, efficient base runners. It just so happens that our top base runner stole a lot of bases. A.J. Pollock finished with a Steal Rate of 85 percent, stealing 39 bases on 46 attempts. Pollock also finished with a whopping 111 runs in 2015. Here’s the rest of the list:

  1. A.J. Pollock
  2. Kevin Pillar
  3. Ben Revere
  4. Matt Duffy
  5. Adran Beltre
  6. Jason Heyward
  7. Dee Gordon
  8. Lorenzo Cain
  9. Charlie Blackmon
  10. Mookie Betts

PLAYERS 6-10

  • 10. Andrelton Simmons–Always a controversial name in these rankings, “Simba” is not going to impress anyone with his offensive production. But Simmons is the best defensive infielder in baseball and is a decent base runner as well. Where Simmons got a boost was the numbers showing him to be a very tough player to strike out. Simmons finished second in lowest K% behind postseason hero, Daniel Murphy.
  • 9. Edwin Encarnacion–A great approach at the plate results in great power numbers for Double-E. He would finished with 39 home runs and drive in 111 RBI along with a slash line of .277/.372/.557.
  • 8. Jason Heyward–The big prize and most sought-after free agent of this winter, Heyward signed with the Chicago Cubs as Theo Epstein and Company continue to outsmart all of baseball with their front office maneuvers. A solid approach at the plate, Heyward brings untapped potential with the bat. Combined with his speed, Heyward could be an ideal leadoff hitter. The big contribution to the team will be with his glove as Heyward’s defense has been among the very best of all of baseball. Since 2010, Heyward is number one in both DRS and UZR defensive metrics.
  • 7. Chris Davis–He strikes out a lot (highest K% among all qualifying hitters), but he can draw walks and hit bombs. He hit 47 home runs and drove in 117 RBI and posted a ridiculous ISO of .300. He was rewarded this past offseason with a gargantuan contract from the Baltimore Orioles. With his skill-set and the tiny ballpark he will be calling home for the next seven years, Davis should continue to mash with his big bat.
  • 6. Josh Donaldson–The American League MVP is a great hitter, fielder, and interestingly enough, a pretty good base runner. He posted 41 home runs, drove in 123 RBI, and crossed the plate for 122 runs. All of this while making little over $4 million in 2015.

BEST PLATE DISCIPLINE

Best Walk Percentage: Joey Votto

Lowest Strikeout Percentage: Daniel Murphy

Best Walk:Strikeout Ratio: Michael Brantley

Those three names were the epitome of plate discipline in 2015.

But when putting all three of those stats together, the best showcase of plate discipline were the following players:

  • Joey Votto
  • Michael Brantley

A look at their discipline figures, of the 143 players that qualified for this exercise, both players ranked in the top 30 in Lowest Swing Percentages. Brantley had the lowest Swinging Strike Percentage (3.1 percent) in baseball last season, while Votto, despite ranking 35th in Percent of Pitches Seen in Strike Zone, had the lowest Swing Percentage Outside the Strike Zone (19.3 percent).

Ultimate Bullpen

A quick look at our Ultimate Bullpen from the 2015 season, based on FIP and SIERA:

First Bullpen

  1. Zach Britton
  2. Aroldis Chapman (both players were profiled here).
  3. Kenley Jansen–One of ony three players to finish with a Strikeout Percentage above 40 percent
  4. Segio Romo
  5. Carson Smith (both Romo and Smith were profiled here)

Second Bullpen

  1. Andrew Miller–Chapman, Jansen, and Miller are part of the 40 percent K% club.
  2. Cody Allen–One of the most underrated relievers in baseball.
  3. Brett Cecil–Big reason why the Toronto Blue Jays made is far in the postseason this season
  4. David Robertson–Imagine if he were still with the New York Yankees.
  5. Liam Hendriks–A career year for Hendriks, it appears as if he has found his niche coming out of the bullpen.

TOP FIVE PLAYERS OF 2015

  • 5. Joey Votto–As explained earlier, Votto has the best plate discipline as he rarely swings at a pitch he does not like. It is why explodes on umpires over balls and strikes. He probably knows the strike zone better than a lot of umps. His patience has frustrated fans, but last season, he was among the league leaders in Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) and proved to be on of the most dangerous hitters in baseball.
  • 4. Jose Bautista–A controversial selection here, but there is no doubt that a big part of Donaldson’s MVP award was Bautista being part of the Blue Jays’ lineup. Hitting 40 home runs, 114 RBI, and scoring 108 runs of his, he complemented the counting stats with an impressive OPS of .913. Bautista also had one of the best Walk Percentages in baseball as his approach was one of the best last season.
  • 3. Mike Trout–What else has not been said about Trout that many have said already? A once-in-a-generation player, theoretically should be a four-time MVP recipient, Trout is still young enough to get better. A very scary notion. Trout gets kudos for being an extraordinary hitter and a dependable source of power with a respectable Walk Rate. Trout’s base running (not speed) is slowly fading away in terms of importance as he sacrifices his all-around game for the good of his team (becoming a more prolific power-hitter), but he should continue to be on of the best players in baseball for years to come.
  • 2. Paul Goldschmidt–A premier power-hitter with a great batting eye, a surprisingly good base runner, and ranking highly on defense, Goldschmidt is redefining the idea of what a great, all-around player should look like. The counting stats are obviously impressive, hitting 33 home runs, driving in 110 RBI, and stealing 21 bases. The slash line of .321/.435/.570 is other-worldly. At only 28 years-old, Goldie can be expected to continue to be among the very best in baseball for the forseeable future.
  • 1. Bryce Harper–The soon-to-be $400 million man? Don’t sell him short! Harper was without a doubt the best hitter in baseball last season. He finished fourth in our plate discipline rankings despite seeing the fewest pitches inside the strike zone last season (38.5 percent). Had the best Isolated Power (ISO of .319) and wOBA (.461) of any hitter in 2015, yet still was able to not be a liability on the base paths (UBR of 3.1). Entering his age 23 season in 2016, it’s nearly impossible to not think of the exciting things Harper will do this upcoming season.

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Featured Image Credit: Buck/Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/buckaroobay/5051382455/in/photostream/

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